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Brandon Sun - ONLINE EDITION

Winnipeg included in NHL's schedule drafts: source

So they’re talking.

Good to know. But it remains to be seen if a deal can be done and that’s really the news Winnipeggers are waiting on.

Word is out that True North Sports and Entertainment is in negotiations with Atlanta Spirit to buy and relocate the Atlanta Thrashers for the coming 2011-12 season.

Where those negotiations sit is unknown and to suggest an announcement is close would be rash.

The talks, however, are not preliminary and the Free Press has learned the NHL is working on two schedule drafts for next season — one with Winnipeg and another with Atlanta.

The best news, for Winnipeggers wanting the NHL to return to this city, is the simplicity of these negotiations in terms of the players.

This is about a deal between two groups, True North and Atlanta Spirit. No city council to contend with and no objections from the NHL. Just a bunch of suits haggling over a business transaction.

Sure, there could be some sticking points and this deal could crater but Atlanta Spirit is a motivated seller and True North is a motivated buyer. No one else is in the room and it's down to money and terms.

The NHL, by virtue of allowing these talks and working on a schedule that includes Winnipeg, is prepared to let relocation to Winnipeg happen.

More to the point, commissioner Gary Bettman is OK with it.

Mr. Bettman gets what he wants in the NHL and if you need proof, just have a look at the sideshow in Phoenix. The commissioner wasn’t interested in leaving the desert and he moved heaven and hell to keep the Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena.

The board of governors have Bettman’s back and his blessing on talks between True North and Atlanta Spirit tells the entire story in terms of the governors. They’ve signed off and any needed massaging of league bylaws is an afterthought.

If True North can give Atlanta Spirit what it wants in short order — this deal will be done and approved and Winnipeg will have its Jets or Falcons or Moose or whatever they end up being called by this fall.

But time is an issue.

True North is approaching its internal deadline and while they could stretch things a bit its unlikely they’ll allow this to drag into June. There’s just too much to do and True North will want to get off on their best foot.

Should they land an NHL franchise they’ll want to immediately begin selling tickets and sponsorships, not to mention all the logistical work that remains to be done.

There’s also the matter of a marketplace test still to be conducted. True North chairman Mark Chipman discussed the concept with Free Press reporter Tim Campbell last spring and it’s understood Winnipeggers will be asked to show their willingness to pay NHL prices for NHL hockey before any deal is finalized.

Count on a week for such a test.

Like we said, there’s still lots to do.

But this is closer and a clearer path than Winnipeg has experienced in its bid for the return of the NHL.

Somebody call Monty Hall.

Let’s make a deal.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Monday, May 16, 2011 at 12:14 PM CDT:
Adds reaction from True North and NHL

Updated on Monday, May 16, 2011 at 5:48 PM CDT:
Updates with full writethrough

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Sort by: Newest to Oldest | Oldest to Newest | Most Popular 132 Commentscomment icon

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Correction: Bobby Hull did play a few games with the Winnipeg Jets in the first season of the WHA/NHL merger. He split the 1979-1980 season with the Jets and the Hartford Whalers. He could have finished his hockey career as a Jet but the worst coach in franchise history, Tom McVie, refused to let Hull suit up for a game against the Montreal Canadiens (the first Tuxedo Night, the Jets beat the Habs) and Hull was dispatched to the Whalers to finish his career playing alongside Gordie Howe and Dave Keon.

@Winnipegisgolden

I love the enthusiasm and i think it's great that people are getting behind this but I have to say...Golden Jets sounds awful. Plus, this is about a return to the NHL. Bobby Hull was never a NHL Jet. How bout the Winnipeg Hawerpucks!....kidding....really....lol

@schneidfeld.....that was me that gave a thumbs down....by accident. I read the part you quoted and thought it was the same one i read earlier. Anyway.....I do agree with your statement.

OK...just a few things....i don't want to sound like a know-it-all, but there are some common sense issues here.

1. MTS Centre does not need to and will not be expanded...the press box was expanded and some suites may be added depending on demand, but adding more cheap seats costs more to add than what they will make from them.
2. Tickets will not average 150-200 dollars as some may try to scare people into thinking.
3. Tickets in Winnipeg will be cheaper than those in Edmonton and Calgary and many other cities based on the success of several projects around downtown and other projects run by TNSE to make up for a smaller arena.
4. A ticket drive is not an attempt to blame Winnipeggers for TNSE backing out. They've gone this far, they're not going to put all the money they have into arena improvements and a practice facility to all of a sudden find a way out.
5. Winnipeg is by no means the only city that has had to prove that they will buy tickets. Atlanta, Columbus, Minnesota (Wild) are just three examples of places that the NHL required a commitment from, all of whom, incl. Atlanta did sell the minimum required with Minnesota selling more on their own accord.
5. The province is not helping TNSE buy a team or pay for losses, but simply making a transition period easier for them.
6. Winnipeg has a large enough market to support an NHL team. The NHL will not let it's salaries get out of hand again. New CBA coming soon.
7. We want it. We're getting it. We need to support it!

Most people posting on here are negative and that is what drives buisness and citizens away from Winnipeg in droves the past few decades..
I wonder if these neagtive nellies have no lot better in life than to be grim reapers? Probably

The amount of negativity in these posts disgusts me! You people should be ashamed of yourselves. An NHL team comming back to Winnipeg would revitalize downtown. Attract more head offices and improve the overall economy of the province. There is no reason why this cant be an amazing sucess story for our wonderful city! There is absolutley no reason why people cant go halfers or 1/4's on season tickets to make it affordable as you wont be able to make every game anyway.

I for one love these articles keep up the good work Gary!

WFP:
> Winnipeg included in NHL's schedule drafts: source

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Woof!

"This "ticket drive" is going to be nothing but an opportunity for TNSE to back out while at the same time placing the blame on the good people of Winnipeg.. I look for an outrageous commitment to be required.."

a) What ticket drive? There's been no announcement
b) WHY would TNSE enter into negotiations to purchase an NHL team for the sole purpose of staging a ticket drive so that they could "back out" of the deal?! That makes zero sense. None. Why would they even bother negotiating in the first place?!

In summary, please think before you post. Atlanta had a ticket drive when they first started as an expansion team. It's called standard procedure, and there's nothing outrageous about asking people to buy season tickets.

J.B. Smith of Detoit is THE BALKAN!!!!!

Thrash Saved

We shouldn't count our chickens too fast here because I heard an Atlanta sports columnist claim that even if Winnipeg currently looks like the best place to relocate the Thrashers, the problem with Phoenix is still unsolved because the Coyotes don't have a buyer. So if the league can find a way to prop up the Thrashers for another season the way Phoenix has been, it might buy enough time to find it a buyer also. If not, however, it will really be in a bind by this time next year since two teams will have to be moved; yet the NHL has pulled dumb stunts before, so no one should be surprised.

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